Giving + Taking Credit: The Evolving Role of Women in The Episcopal Church

Meet the Panel

Dr. Helen Bhagwandin is serving a second term as an officer on the National Council of the Order of the Daughters of the King (DOK). She is a retired full Professor from Miami-Dade College in the School of Nursing after 24 years. She is also the Coordinator of the Parish Nursing/ Health Ministry at Church of the Ascension, a Ministry she founded twenty-six years ago. In 2009 she was appointed by the National Episcopal Health Ministry and confirmed by her Bishop as Diocesan Liaison for Health Ministries in her Diocese (SEFL). Dr. Bhagwandin has presented at various events on Parish Nursing/Health Ministry and has conducted various workshops on Parish Nursing and Health related topics. Dr. Bhagwandin holds a Diploma in Nursing from John Radcliffe School of Nursing in Oxford, England; a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Miami; a master’s in nursing education from Barry University; and a Doctoral Degree from Nova Southeastern with a dual major of Healthcare Education and Organizational Leadership.  She is a Board-Certified Faith-Community Nurse and a certified Faith Community Nurse Faculty.

Deacon Cecily Sawyer Harmon, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, was ordained in the first class of deacons in 2009. She was the chaplain of the Episcopal Campus Ministry until 2019. She has served for the past ten years on the diocesan nominating committee. Deacon Cecily has been a deputy/alternate to six General Conventions and has co- chaired two committees. She serves on the Diocesan Disciplinary Board and the board of The Episcopal Women’s History Project. Deacon Cecily engages in the diocese’s program on Racial Justice and Reconciliation. While residing in Liberia, West Africa with her husband she worked as the Assistant Director of Social Services for the country of Liberia. A graduate of Hampton University and Adelphia School of Social Work, Deacon Cecily has worked for more than 40 years in the mental health field and has had a private practice for more than 30 years. Deacon Cecily retired from the University of Delaware in 2013, where she directed the Faculty Staff Assistance Program, counseling administrators, faculty, and staff. Deacon Cecily is also active in her community with her sorority, AKA, and the Wilmington Links. Deacon Harmon brings expertise as a therapist, mediator and clergy patiently resolving demanding situations.

Laura Jackson is Executive Director of The Partner’s Path, a nonprofit whose mission is to provide an interfaith place of connection and soul care for spouses of clergy in the Episcopal Church, so that the diversity of gifts they possess might be offered more fully to the world. She is engaged in DMin research into the spirituality of clergy spouses. She lives in Evanston, IL, with a seminary president, a teenager, and a small fuzzy dog. 

The Rev. Dr. Hillary Raining is a theologian, author, priest, teacher, and ministry consultant. She serves in several roles as a leader in the Church: she is the first woman rector of St. Christopher Episcopal Church in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania; the Founding Director & Affiliate Faculty of the Doctor of Ministry program at the General Theological Seminary in New York City; has served as a deputy to several General Conventions of the Episcopal Church; and she serves as mentor, coach, and spiritual advisor to several people seeking ordination. She is also a founder of The Hive, a home for wellness, spirituality, and growth. Raining earned her Doctor of Ministry from Drew University (2014), her Master of Divinity from Yale University (2007), and Bachelor of Arts in Religion and Psychology from Moravian University (2005). Read more about Hillary, her background, writings, reflections, and publications on her website.

The Rev. Margaret R. Rose is Deputy for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations for The Episcopal Church on the staff of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. She oversees denominational dialogues and interreligious engagement as they relate to the public commitments of The Episcopal Church on anti-racism, peace building, and reconciliation, within the United States and internationally. She holds leadership positions on the National Council of Churches, Religions for Peace, USA, Shoulder to Shoulder, and is a director of the Harvard Alumnae Association. Prior to her current position, she was Director for Women’s Ministries for The Episcopal Church. She has an A.B. from Wellesley College, an M.Div. from Harvard with continuing studies at the Institute of Politics and Protestant Institute of Theology in Paris, the University of Geneva, and the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Institute. She has held positions in parish leadership, community organizing, and seminary programs in feminist theology and urban mission in Massachusetts and Georgia. She currently serves as a Priest Associate at Church of the Heavenly Rest in New York City. 

Dr. Sandra Squires is a Professor Emeritus from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where she served 27 years as a teacher and department chair.  She worked in special education teacher preparation and served part-time as the Youth Coordinator for the Diocese of Nebraska. Her most recent service in the church has been with Education for Ministry (EfM) as a diocesan coordinator and co-mentor.  From 2013 to 2018, she served on the United Thank Offering Board.  She served as president on the UTO Board from 2015-2018, a position that met her passion to be involved in mission and outreach for the Episcopal Church. She has held leadership positions at parish, diocesan, and province levels with both Daughters of the King and Episcopal Church Women (called Women’s Ministry in Nebraska), and she currently serves as a Board member and the chair of the Grants Committee for Episcopal Women’s History Project.  

Sherri Dietrich serves as moderator for this discussion and is the President of the United Thank Offering Board. Sherri lives in midcoast Maine in a 290-year-old house with her wife of 33 years, two cats, and 24 chickens. After 30+ years of working as a freelance indexer and editor, she is gleefully anticipating her retirement in the near future, though she still loves her work. She looks forward to spending lots more time working on the things she loves—gardening, cooking, sewing, reading, working on her old house, and UTO.